Temporary Urban Interventions: Preserving the Existing Built Environment with Direct Community Action

Urban Planning Thesis

Fernanda Sotelo

Liz McEnaney, advisor

Urban planners, economic developers, community-based organizations and government agencies are increasingly using small-scale, temporary urban interventions as a tool to revitalize historic downtowns and neighborhoods. These interventions are being integrated into larger, incremental planning initiatives that seek to stimulate redevelopment and inform long-term planning goals. Temporary urban interventions depend on direct community action to envision and plan a quick and affordable transformation of neglected and blighted areas of historic neighborhoods with aesthetic improvements and temporary uses.  Through creative mediums that include the restoration of storefronts, pop-up buildings on vacant lots, sidewalk cafes, art and landscaping, temporary urban interventions allow communities to experiment with ideas and uses that highlight the economic and viable potential of the existing built environment.

Temporary urban interventions are powerful forms of direct community action that incite the preservation of the existing built environment by emphasizing local history and existing built assets; yet they are not under the purview of historic preservation. This thesis examined how historic preservation practices can enhance temporary urban interventions as a redevelopment tool by identifying common values and goals, stakeholders and analyzing case studies. Following major findings and recommendations, this thesis proposed a collaboration between temporary urban interventions and historic preservation to ensure that such initiatives surpass the temporal realm and become a formal, long-term solution to the revitalization and preservation of the existing built environment.